DEAR MISS MANNERS – On a recent vacation to a dude ranch, one evening’s entertainment was a gentleman singing songs and telling stories about cowboys around a campfire.
An elderly lady in the small audience, who had apparently seen the same performance the previous week, repeatedly demanded that the performer “stop talking and sing already,” and conversed loudly with her companions during the storytelling segments.
While this lady’s behavior significantly detracted from my (and I imagine others’) enjoyment of the performance, I could not come up with an appropriate response, other than to turn around and look directly at her when she spoke in the hopes of getting her to realize the impact she was having on her fellow audience members.
Lacking Miss Manners’ gifts for polite and respectful commentary, we all remained silent and tolerated this lady’s behavior until she left us to enjoy the show in peace. How could I have better handled this situation?
GENTLE READER – It is a pity, Miss Manners agrees, to pass up the opportunity to rescue a cowboy in distress.
This one was apparently unusually helpless, because performers generally have ways of dealing with hecklers. An audience member who takes this upon herself runs the risk of starting a shouting match, and that is probably what deterred you.
But you could have said in a firm but calm and cordial voice, “Excuse me, but many of us would like to hear what he is saying.”